On these SoHo streets
Walking through the streets of NYC these days with a crazy beard and skull cap feels different than it used to be. I keep thinking about what’s going on in Israel and Europe – I’m a target over there. So I’ve become more suspicious about how others see me here on these SoHo streets filled with all these happy tourists from all around the world.
Where I live, in addition to frequent “Salam Alekem’s”, I get “Shabbat Shalom’s” from the under cover brothers. I get “Chag Sameach’s” from the Israeli tourists. I get screams of “Moshiach Now” from the car windows of out of town Chabad passerbyers. The words are usually accompanied with a nod of unspoken communication – like, I am also Jewish and I relate to you and you bring out something from me. It feels like they need me. And that feeling makes me feel like I need them.
It’s easy to settle into our surroundings. Into community norms, institutional norms, geographic norms – and that can hold down a soul from chasing the light of its potential.
The body and its surrounding environment cannot fully house the soul. So we are really always in a state of breaking out. Expanding. Growing closer toward the Source. So folks whose souls crave to rise beyond the constraints of their limited physical identities and personalities give me that nod because that part of themselves sees something they can relate to – like, I also have that within, and you bring out something from me. It feels like they need me. And that feeling makes me feel like I need them.
Same with those suffering with self doubt, addiction, depression and all forms of mental illness. Like, I see you live beyond the bounds so the part of me that’s trapped here has hope and strength from seeing you breaking free. Through your Emunah and certainty and faith in Hashem – through that, I have hope. It feels like they need me. And that feeling makes me feel like I need them.
Now is not the time to go undercover. Now is the time to boldly rise toward our own greatest potential, to inspire and connect with others.
The prophets talked about this time thousands of years ago. The sages say that the way to navigate and remain safe today is through Torah and acts of kindness. Torah means the way, the wisdom, the code transmitted by the Source to us, the elixir to life. And acts of kindness means alot, including only seeing the good in yourself and in others and never speaking negatively about yourself or others under any circumstance.
Rav Shalom Arush lays out for us a five step plan to navigate these troubling times, eloquently elaborated by yours truly:
1. Strengthen ourselves in Emunah. Incorporate our higher wisdom and understanding and stretch further during prayer, meditation and intention in every day actions – to live what we learn and learn more – and continue that cycle constantly for the rest of our lives. Never despairing. Never stopping.
2. Recall Hashem’s love for us, recalling the past miracles done for our nation in 1967, 1973, 1991, and all through recent years until today. And, thank Hashem for our national salvations and our private salvations. Think about our own miracles and take nothing for granted. Thank Hashem constantly. Be in a constant state of gratitude for everything in life. For the most trivial detail.
3.Those who are not yet plugged into the miraculous healing power of the holiest 24 hour period of the week A.K.A. Shabbat – those who have not yet merited to bask in the cradle of light which awaits us at sundown Friday – those who have not yet given themselves the sweet gift of rest and inner peace and connection to the ultimate purpose – those still stuck in the quicksands of today, walking in circles around the ordinary week – should begin immediately to follow their inner Divine spark who craves intensely for the requisite freedom and healing recharge of the Shabbat. Weighing in at number 4 of the Ten Commandments, if you observe the Shabbat it’s like you hold up the entire Torah.
Violating the level of Shabbat that we are personally holding today removes us from the powerful realm of Shabbat, pushing away the greatest gift of purpose, peace and rest and joy that can only be experienced with the assistance of the extra soul that joins us on Shabbat, and the angels who dance around our Shabbat table. And, says Rav Arush, those who observe Shabbat should strengthen their knowledge of the laws of Shabbat.
4. One should ponder Hashem constantly and speak to Him as much as possible.
5. One should encourage others to learn and strengthen Emunah.
Perhaps what is most important to us now, is to love each other like we love our self. To love peace and pursue peace within and between ourselves. This brings peace between the Source and His people.